Star Wars

Star Wars
Property of George Lucas, LucasFilms Ltd.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Trust in the Judgment of a Jedi: Joruus C'Baoth

Jedi Master Joruus C'Baoth
Dude's clearly out of his mind. Let's just start there.

As I turned the final page of Dark Force Rising last week and sat there, trying to figure out how I was going to not write twenty-five different blog posts about all the different thoughts, emotions, and new observations crowding into my head at once, it occurred to me that Joruus C'Baoth is an enigma worth his own post (and if I refuse him one, I hate to think what he'd do ...).

Like so many of Zahn's other characters, C'Baoth isn't just evil. Dark Force Rising is the only book in the series where readers actually get to see events from C'Baoth's point of view and then, only when he's alone on Jomark. Egotistical and power-hungry C'Baoth might be, convinced that he "had found the true meaning of power", but he's also struggling with the nature of himself (Dark Force 22). He's paradoxically driven to twist and warp the minds of those around him, bending them to his will even as he's physically and emotionally hurt by his own actions: "It was hard ... to hold his thoughts and feelings closey in line" (Dark Force 29). His own nature is apparently driving him to madness. Just using the Force causes him pain: "It was hard to concentrate - so very hard - but with a perverse grimness he ignored the fatigue-driven pain and kept at it" (Dark Force 92). A healthy living being's reaction to pain is to avoid it or cure it, if at all possible. C'Baoth continues to push himself further into it and, while he continues to gather power to himself, also continues to destabilize his own mind, driving himself further into madness.

Captain Pellaeon, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Jed Master C'Baoth
This self-destructive pattern makes him all-the-more dangerous, something Luke begins to recognize (as does the reader) during his brief stay with C'Baoth on Jomark. C'Baoth's solution to a conflict is to control it and treat the parties to that conflict as "lesser beings," whom he claims "hate [the Jedi] for our power, and our knowledge, and our wisdom" (Dark Force 292). C'Baoth's solution is to take absolute control of the conflict and manipulate it until the solution appears and is enforced as he wants it. There are plenty of other characters in Zahn's universe who have control issues (ahem, Councilor Borsk Fey'leya) but C'Baoth stands out as truly dangerous because he has the power to force others to let him take control. Interestingly enough, it's Captain Pellaeon, simple Imperial captain serving under the power and vastly intellectually superior Grand Admiral Thrawn, who expresses ambivolence about attempting to harness C'Baoth's insanity for the Empire's use, even going so far as to argue with his superior officer about it: "And what happens when we've bent the rules so far that they come around and stab us in the back .... until [C'Baoth's] doing what he damn well pleases and to blazes with the Empire [and everyone else]" (Dark Force 88). Of course, Pellaeon's concerns are justified, which becomes slowly apparent as the trilogy progresses.

Another round of applause to Zahn for creating a truly terrifying villain (or is he a victim? He is a clone, after all) ...


  1. An inspiring post! You are so right, C'Boath is among the scariest kind of villain to me. He has the power to control people, and the insanity to destroy worlds. Well put!

    PS: I can't believe you're already done with the second book! I'm still working my way through Heir!

  2. Don't let it worry you too much - I've reread these books quite a few times and, while I'm truly rereading them as though I'd never read them before, it's also easier because I know I love them and now I'm searching for discussion topics for the blog so reading is going really fast. Worst-case scenario, I get through Last Command and pause for breath while you catch up by reading Scoundrels (at last!!!!!)!

    C'Baoth is terrifying but is also pitiful, in a way .... Zahn describes his child-like temper tantrums (or rather, we see them through Captain Pellaeon's nervous eyes) and it's clear that for all he can control the people around them, there's no purpose to that control. As Thrawn astutely points out, C'Baoth doesn't have the stability to plan long-term. He's obsessed with Leia's twins but the odds of him because able to actually care for them as infants and small children are slim-to-none. He'd probably forget to feed them or something and kill them before he actually got to a point where he could turn them into little servants of the Dark Side. Terrible, but true.